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IndyCar Series Officially Puts "IRL" To Rest At Schedule Release

Bernard (r) Seeks To Separate IndyCar Series From Negative Connotation Of "IRL"

The Izod IndyCar Series' schedule announcement for the '11 season was "as much about the past as it was about the future," as IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard "used the occasion to officially confirm that the name 'Indy Racing League' is being put to rest," according to John Oreovicz of ESPN.com. Bernard said the phrase IRL "has a negative connotation since the (CART-IRL) divorce, whereas 'IndyCar' is known around the world." Bernard: "We want to create perception and we want to welcome back those 15-20 million fans that we lost in the mid-'90s. Let's go back to our roots. Let's go back to what made IndyCar. And the first thing we need to do is make sure that our brand image is positive." Also "being cast aside -- for now, at least -- is IndyCar's relationship" with ISC, whose tracks will not host any IndyCar events in '11. Bernard: "We don't want to shut doors with ISC, but we have to go with places that we believe are best for the series. ... We want to be in a position next year where we have 25 or 26 hungry promoters coming to us trying to secure one of our 17 or 18 races." Oreovicz noted the venue for the Oct. 16 season finale "has not been determined, but it is expected to be Las Vegas Motor Speedway." Bernard revealed that ISC-owned Auto Club Speedway "made a strong pitch to host the finale, including direct contact from" California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (ESPN.com, 9/10).

NEW BEST FRIEND? In Ft. Lauderdale, Steven Cole Smith wrote the '11 schedule "signals a tightening bond between" IndyCar and SMI, though Bernard "denies that any deal with SMI precluded his series racing at ISC tracks." Bernard: "ISC has promoted 66 races in their history with us, and I think that's very important to know. But I also think it's very important to know that we are trying to move IndyCar to the next level." Bernard said with ISC, "scheduling was a major issue, sanctioning fees were another and a third would be marketing" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/11). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg noted the "schedule shuffle means that the first oval race of the season will be the Indianapolis 500." Also, IndyCar "still has a majority of its races on Versus, a channel that is an afterthought to all but hardcore sports fans" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/11).

VEGAS, BABY: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote Bernard "made his love for Las Vegas clear Friday." Bernard: "I don't think there's a better city in the world to have a season finale." Bernard is "confident" in Las Vegas Motor Speedway because the track is owned by SMI. Bernard: "When you deal with (SMI) you're dealing with the top" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/11). In Las Vegas, Jeff Wolf wrote Bernard "doesn't hide his enthusiasm about bringing the last race and banquet to Las Vegas," and the "determining factor appears to be if the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is willing to help pay for the event sanctioning fee" that could be around $1M. Bernard "has a proven track record in Las Vegas from when" he served as PBR CEO (LVRJ.com, 9/10). AUTOSPORT.com's Matt Beer noted Auto Club Speedway was a Champ Car venue from '97-'02 and was used by IndyCar from '02-'05, while LVMS was "part of the original Indy Racing League schedule" from '96-'00 "before holding Champ Car races" in '04 and '05 (AUTOSPORT.com, 9/11).

BACK TO THE MILE: In Milwaukee, Dave Kallmann noted the IndyCar Series will return to the Milwaukee Mile next year, and AB Promotions' Chris McGrath described a "simpler approach to ticketing and overall more affordable seats." McGrath: "There were at least five different price points from the grandstands. We're going to turn it into three." AB Promotions is a "joint venture between McGrath's Avocado Motorsports Marketing, which will concentrate on sales," and BMG Event Productions, which "will handle logistics." McGrath said that the group "has had exploratory discussions with several potential title and presenting sponsors." Meanwhile, AB "continues to explore options for ... added value for the weekend." McGrath and AB's George Sechrist said that ideas include "everything from volleyball to BMX cycle competition." Sechrist said that the "aim is to make Saturday night, in particular, a huge party on the grounds." Kallman noted contracts "cover the 2011 race, and AB and the series have options for 2012 and '13" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/11).

OFF THE GRID: In K.C., Randy Covitz noted Kansas Speedway "will not have an IndyCar Series race next year ... for the first time since it opened in 2001," as the "addition of a second NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend for June 2011 at Kansas Speedway crowded out the IndyCar Series." Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren: "With the current economic environment, we had to re-evaluate all of our events and are turning our attention to those that make the most financial sense." Covitz noted the May 1 IndyCar Series race "drew about 45,000 fans" at 82,000-seat Kansas Speedway, which convinced ISC that "losing the Indy cars would be offset by gaining an additional Cup weekend, which is expected to draw in excess of 100,000 and generate better television ratings" (K.C. STAR, 9/11). Meanwhile, in Illinois, Dick Goss noted Chicagoland Speedway also is "out of the loop" for IndyCar in '11. The track is getting the first race in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, yet "considering how highly the big-name IndyCar drivers have spoken of running here, it does not feel right to say there is no open-wheel race in 2011" (Joliet HERALD NEWS, 9/11).

TAKING A HIT: Bernard said attendance was a "significant factor" in not renewing the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Bernard: "There wasn’t a large crowd and if they can’t deliver, why would any series want to go back" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 9/11). In Miami, Veiga & Shah reported the IndyCar Series' exit from HMS "won’t have a significant impact" on the track, but local officials said that the "departure comes at a difficult time for the cash-strapped city" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/11).

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